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Study suggests a tax on drivers to help MBTA money troubles

A new proposal introduced to state transportation officials Wednesday suggests taxing drivers on the road by the mile in order to help balance the MBTA’s ailing budget.

According to the report released by MassINC, the T could potentially close its budget shortfall with a tax ranging from .5 cents to .75 cents for every mile a driver spends on the road in the Boston area.

The proposed Vehicle Miles Traveled tax would cost drivers $1.03 to $1.54 per week, and increase during rush hour traffic, according to the report.

The MassINC proposal recommends regions of the state should have the local option to enact a payroll tax or VMT tax to fund transportation initiatives because “current regional inequities are dramatic.”

“The gas tax isn’t presenting the revenues it once did, so the question is how do you maintain when revenue is on a downward [trend]?” said Benjamin Forman, MassINC Research Director. “Don’t charge for gas, charge for miles traveled.”

Forman said as gas-guzzling vehicles become more eco-friendly and some vehicles go the electric route, funds from the gas tax aren’t as high.

“[We could] plug the holes just barely and limp along for another decade or two or we could take [a] regional approach which could potentially raise significant sums of money…fix the problems, and build for the future,” he said in the report.

The study claims there is an imbalance in current financing plans for regional transit agencies that creates economic disadvantages for smaller cities.

Forman said drivers would reap the benefits of a mile-tax because more people would turn to the T for transportation, in effect reducing congestion on the road.

The statewide sales tax is the major source of revenue used to finance public transportation in Massachusetts.

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